On the 'Semantics' of Differential Privacy: A Bayesian Formulation

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Shiva P. Kasiviswanathan
Adam Smith


Differential privacy is a definition of privacy for algorithms that analyze and publish information about statistical databases. It is often claimed that differential privacy provides guarantees against adversaries with arbitrary side information. In this paper, we provide a precise formulation of these guarantees in terms of the inferences drawn by a Bayesian adversary. We show that this formulation is satisfied by both epsilon-differential privacy as well as a relaxation known as (epsilon,delta)-differential privacy. Our formulation follows the ideas originally due to Dwork and McSherry. This paper is, to our knowledge, the first place such a formulation appears explicitly. The analysis of the relaxed definition is new to this paper, and provides some guidance for setting the delta parameter when using (epsilon,delta)-differential privacy.

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Kasiviswanathan, Shiva P., and Adam Smith. 2014. “On the ’Semantics’ of Differential Privacy: A Bayesian Formulation”. Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality 6 (1). https://doi.org/10.29012/jpc.v6i1.634.

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